Household Chores for GDP Calculation by Indu Balakrishnan

By Indu Balakrishnan

GDP is important because it gives information about the size of the economy and how an economy is performing. The growth rate of real GDP is often used as an indicator of the general health of the economy. In broad terms, an increase in real GDP is interpreted as a sign that the economy is doing well.

GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government investment + government spending + (exports – imports).

GDP = C + I + G + (X – M) 

Contribution of each sector to the Indian GDP 

Essentially, Sector wise contribution includes agricultural, industrial and service. And household chores technically should count as services, yes? Quite obvious, when you say it out loud (or read). 

India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy, is still lagging behind because about 700 million people of India — more than twice the population of the US — who perform household duties aren’t recorded among the national income providers since they aren’t technically part of the workforce.

There has been a lot of debate around this topic for years. In 2018, the Indian Government stated that the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) will be conducting a year-long household survey to measure the amount of work spent in cooking and washing. 

Goal of the survey: The government will get a clear understanding of how women taking care of the household are spending their time which will improve Indian economy.

Some shocking statistics 

  • As per a United Nations report, 75% of the world’s unpaid care and domestic work is done by women
  • Unpaid domestic work accounts for 13% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • In India, a staggering 49% of women from the 1.3 billion-strong nation contribute to its GDP but are not even counted.
  • Women in India spend 352 minutes a day on unpaid work; however, men spend 51.8 minutes a day according to a UN report. 

(Hey, it’s the United Nations saying it! This is not a male-bashing article. I am just trying to summarize the findings so that you can comment with your opinion and bring some traffic to the blog while at it) 

So, Is housework included in GDP?

GDP measures the market value of the goods and services a nation produces. Unpaid work that people do for themselves and their families isn’t traded in the marketplace, so there are no transactions to track.

Now, for the shocker! 

  • According to a report published in Republic World in January 2018, the research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests that India’s GDP can grow by 27% if women’s participation in the economy is raised to the same level as that of men. 
  • It also suggests that India will be growing at a rate of 7.4% in 2018 as against China’s 6.8%, making it the fastest growing country among emerging economies.

Whoa! 

The challenge for the government will be to put the survey’s data to use and address issues such as gender equality, women empowerment, and unemployment. 

Summary of the survey: A first-of-its-kind survey by the Ministry of Statistics has supported the assertion that women shoulder most of the unpaid domestic services for members of the household and are the primary care-givers for dependent family members. 

Duh! 

So this opinion started floating around on the internet a LOT – Paying salaries to women for housework can give women respect, recognition, dignity and empowerment. The unanswered question then is, who will pay for it? 

“They say it is love. We say it is unwaged work.”

– Silvia Federici, Wages Against Housework (1975)

Last December, Kamal Haasan promised a salary to homemakers, as part of his poll promises in his seven-point governance and economic agenda, if his party, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), is voted to power in the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly elections. 

Well, he didn’t quite get there, but his words sure made an impact. 

And there was Shashi Tharoor’s Tweet that brought to life this debate 

But, Kangana Ranaut opposed the idea, saying, “Don’t put a price tag on sex we have with our love, don’t pay us for mothering our own, we don’t need salary for being the Queens of our own little kingdom our home, stop seeing everything as business. Surrender to your woman. She needs all of you, not just your love/respect/salary.”

Tharoor responded, “I agree w/@KanganaTeam that there are so many things in a homemaker’s life that are beyond price. But this is not about those things: it’s about recognising the value of unpaid work & also ensuring a basic income to every woman. I’d like all Indian women to be as empowered as you!”

While these debates are quite intellectually challenging, and sorta nice to see because the value that women bring to the table is being recognized, 

  • Should that value be acknowledged with a thank you/what ever you deem is ‘politically correct’? AND/OR 
  • Should we put a number on that value? 

Kangana seems to think that by putting a price-tag on the actions brought in with love and care as a wife/mother, you are degrading it. On the other hand, I’m sure many women would not mind being paid for it. I mean, think about it. I love my job to bits. I love what I bring to the table and I love working with them. But, why would anyone want to be employed for free, unless you are volunteering with an NGO?

High Court: No Woman is Unemployed, even as Homemaker she dons several hats

Something to think about, while at it –  Can the work that I do for my office be compared to the chores I do at home? 

Now, imagine this scenario.

If I decide to not cook or take care of my kids or pet or do any of the house-hold chores. 

I employ a cook, a nanny, a pet-sitter, and pay someone to fold clothes, get the kids to study and behave, teach them what the school already teaches them, and keep the house clean (Sorry I don’t really keep the house spic and span – but for argument sake, let’s say I do) – And I pay everyone for the ‘house-chores’, that would qualify to become part of the GDP, yes? Because all boxes are being checked. There is the so-called trade in the marketplace. There is employment. There is an income-expense equation. 

And we have salaries being paid towards 

  • The cook (breakfast, lunch, tiffin, dinner and everything else inbetween) , 
  • House-maid (including keeping the clothes cupboard clean – sigh, that IS hardwork) 
  • Tutor ( I need to study too before teaching them) 
  • Pet-care (Marvel sleeps a lot but his litterbox does not clean itself)  
  • Nanny (keeping them occupied so that they are not always in front of the phone/tv/computer) and 
  • Peace-maker (well, I do keep the peace between the siblings and the father and that should really count, you know). 

I get paid for what I do at my corporate office, so doesn’t it make sense for me to demand a pay for the house-hold work that I do? Sure, I do it for my husband and kids and my cat. But, will I be judged if I put a price tag on it? 

What are your thoughts? Where should we draw the line? Or should we?

2 comments

  1. Excellent read!

    Domestic working hours should be considered as non instructional working hours and every woman doing all the chores falling within that preview should be paid by the government😁…housework/ taking care of kids needs indirectly benefits the govt. Case in point :- we cook store bought grocery which is taxed -govt should utilize the tax to give it back to woman who do the housework . We send kids to school they in turn would contribute to society n govt through employment…again woman are to be credited … it becomes a vicious cycle.. 😄.. So imagine GDP growth could kind of be sky rocketing considering the percentage of population that do household chores. That way a quantitative measurement of GDP would be possible 😎😎….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow..such an amazing and interesting read, with many great points raised 💜✨ Being a homemaker is a very important role and definitely not an easy one. (I mean the entire household will fall apart if it were’s for the homemaker) You will definitely not be judged for wanting to put a price tag on it, i would highly support this too!!! It’s always nice to have your hard-work and dedication acknowledged, and even more appreciated with a salary 😉

    PS: I wouldn’t trust anything that comes out of Kangana 😅

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply to Esh Srinivasan Gorsia Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s